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The Burns Encyclopedia
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Cromek, Robert Hartley (1770 — 1812)

The author of Reliques of Robert Burns was an engraver to trade. Born at Hull, he trained as a lawyer, but abandoned law to follow artistic pursuits. He studied engraving with Bartolozzi and afterwards met Blake, whose drawings illustrating Blair's poem 'The Grave' Cromek acquired for 20 guineas. In 1808, he published an edition of this poem with etchings after Blake by Schiavonetti, which led to a rupture with Blake, who had expected to be employed on the engraving himself. Cromek's attempts to make money out of blake, Schiavonetti and Stothard brought him into some opprobrium, and resulted in Blake calling him a 'petty, sneaking thief I knew.'

In 1808, Cromek came to Scotland to collect information about Burns. This he published the same year in his Reliques of Burns, consisting of Original Letters, Poems and Critical Observations on Scottish Songs. The finding of a manuscript in Burns's hand in 1922, proved that the song notes, for long suspected of being Cromek forgeries, are mostly by Burns himself and are thus particularly valuable. But although Cromek put in a lot of scholarship and hard work, his habit of making 'portmanteau' versions of Burns's letters led to suspicion being cast on everything he did.

Cromek made a second tour in 1809, during which he met Allan Cunningham, who supplied him with 'old songs' of his own fabrication. Cromek made use of Cunningham's not always accurate knowledge, without acknowledgement in Memoirs of Nithsdale and Galloway Songs, with Historical and Traditional Notices relative to the Manners and Customs of the Peasantry, published in 1810.

He died of consumption on 14th March 1812.

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Robert Burns Store

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Complete Burns Songs

linn recordings of burns Linn Records have completed their landmark recording of all 368 Burns songs, available as individual CDs or a 12 volume presentation box set. We have full details. Click here...


Burns Music & Recordings
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Burns Chess Sets

Burns Chess SetsUnique collectors' pieces based on Burns' life and works. (The ideal gift for your Burns Supper guests!) Click here...

Scotweb Store

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